Save the whale shark project
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world and was once slaughtered along the Gujarat coast in large numbers for its oil and meat. This led to a steep decline in its population and hence, it was declared an endangered species in 2001. The ‘Save the Whale Shark Campaign’ was launched in 2004 with an aim to create conservation awareness amongst the coastal communities and garner their support for protecting this endangered fish.
This project is now in the third phase and is being implemented in partnership with the Wildlife Trust of India and the Gujarat State Forest Department with support from the fishing communities of Veraval, Sutrapada and Dhamlej region. Till date, a total of 585 whale sharks which were incidentally caught in the fishing nets of the locals have been rescued and released. The forest department has institutionalised the process of providing monetary relief to fishermen towards fishing net damages incurred during the whale shark rescue operation. The annual celebration of Whale Shark Day has also been institutionalised by the forest department. Research work on whale shark biology including its feeding, breeding and migratory patterns is continuing, and this will help establish scientific knowledge about this species and help in its long term survival.
The save the whale shark project has been a big success with the State Forest Dept. institutionalising the Whale Shark Day programme, and the granting of monetary relief to fishermen who have incurred fishing net damages during whale shark rescue operations. The programme has, till date, helped rescue 843 whale sharks, which makes it one of the biggest achievements in the rescue and release of an endangered fish worldwide.
The project has won the BNHS National Green Governance Award in 2005, the UNDP Biodiversity award in 2014, and has also been recognised as ‘Good Environment Friendly Practice of Gujarat’ by the State Government in 2013.